Are There Any Blurred Lines With Consent?
There are no blurred lines when it comes to consent. So many women have been sexually assaulted, experienced abuse, and have lived with the belief that it was their fault. They have lived with thoughts like: “It was my fault for standing there so frozen in shock,” “I shouldn’t have gone inside his room/car,” “If I smiled less he wouldn’t have thought I was interested,” and “Of course too much of my skin was exposed. What was I thinking?”. These statements only hint at the extent to which we, as women, have taken the blame for the actions carried out against us, the victims.
Why must we be the ones to blur the lines between the yes or no of consent? Why must we allow men who have violated us to roam free and unbothered while we live with the guilt and shame? There is no “if” or “maybe” in these situations. Consent involves each party expressing a willingness to participate in any particular activity. If you did not give an outright “yes” then, still, you are most definitely not to blame… not even a little bit.
Understanding The Relationship Between Consent & Sexual Assault
The term, “sexual assault” is misunderstood by many persons, both male and female. Many women aren’t even sure of their right to decline participation in any activity because they just do not know what sexual assault is. Sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient and makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. This includes touches on intimate parts of the body, unwanted kisses, and hugs, as well as comments made with sexual innuendos or lined with sexual intentions. As long as you did not explicitly express that you were willing to accept or participate in these activities, this is considered sexual assault.
How Far Can “No” Go?
The answer is, “nowhere”.
- Never allow anyone to make you feel guilty for not giving consent. Again, your body belongs to you and no one has the right to behave in any sexual or intimate manner towards you without your permission. You don’t owe anyone anything.
- A man’s arousal is not your responsibility. Not because he’s aroused you should be guilted into any activities for his sake. “No” will always mean no and nothing else. “No” is not a maybe nor is it “Later”, “Kinda”, “Yes, but I’m too shy to say it,”. No is no. Period.
- You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Many times after you say, “no,” a reason is demanded. Too many men feel entitled to our time and our body and try to convince women that we were wrong for deciding to refuse to entertain sexual behaviour. Well, let me tell you, your body belongs to you. You don’t need to feel sorry for denying someone access for it. You have your reasons for refusing, furthermore, you don’t even need to have reasons. You have complete power and the right to block or allow anyone’s access. However, it would be wise, if you have a partner, to communicate all inhibitions.
- Your denial to participate in any activity is not to be taken for a joke. Oftentimes, after you express your unwillingness to participate in certain activities or to accept intimate behaviour or touches, it is made fun of. Sometimes the other person may even go as far as to do the same action that you had explicitly denied consent to… and then call it a joke and try to laugh it off. This is not okay. It is blatant disrespect and disregard for your feelings and wishes.
- Try to say what you mean. No means no. Please don’t say “no” when you know you don’t mean it. Saying “no” then actually seeking to carry out actions that contradict your denial leaves space for avoidable confusion and misunderstandings. One day, when you really mean no, imagine how hard it will be to convince your partner that this “no” is sincere. If it is a case where you’re not sure what you want, express that to your partner.
If you want to give consent but not completely and with your own conditions, express that to your partners as soon as possible. It is important that we try to communicate as clearly and explicitly as possible, saying exactly what we mean. If you don’t feel as though you can be so open with your partner, then maybe you’re not ready to partake in whatever activity it is that needs your consent. Get more comfortable with them, work on understanding them, help them to understand you, work on your communication, among other things, then move on from there.
When Is The Right Time to Say “No”?
You can decide to give or to take away consent whenever you want. There is no rule anywhere that says that you can only do this at specific times. There is no rule that says you cannot remove consent at any given time. Even if these rules exist, they are to be broken.
- You can change your mind at any time. There is no rule which forces you to go through with any activity just because you had initially agreed. At any moment that you feel uncomfortable, it is your right to stop and say no. Along with this, it is the other person’s duty to honour your decision to stop. Their decision to ignore your request to stop is not your fault. They are acting out of inconsideration, selfishness, and complete disregard for your wellbeing with “hella rapist vibes”.
But… What About Consent If It’s My Partner?
Yes, even if you have a partner, your “no” should never be ignored.
- Don’t let anyone try to make you feel bad for not wanting to pursue any sexual or intimate activity. The activities you would have engaged in involve the two of you, not one. So, in the event that one party decides not to continue, the other should honor the decision and all activity should cease.
- Being in a relationship does not make you obligated to engage in sexual relations. In a relationship, your body is still yours and your decisions on what to do with it are final. If you and your partner have differing beliefs or intentions, it is important that you both communicate these and have a detailed discussion about them. Again, a relationship involves two people and it is important that you are both on the same page. Try to be clear about whatever you want and don’t want in an effort to avoid large disputes regarding consensual sexual interactions.
- Pay attention to the other person. This is not just for people in relationships, but anyone who interacts with others. Everyone has signs they show when they are anxious or uncomfortable. They may be too scared to verbally express their discomfort but body language speaks volumes. Whatever you’re doing, in this instance, shouldn’t only be for your gratification. Try to ensure that all who are involved are willing and comfortable with what is happening, even if it’s “just a hug”.
When Is It Right to Go Against Consent?
NEVER. Don’t even try to justify any excuse.
- It is never your fault. In the case that you have been sexually assaulted, whether by someone’s body language towards you, inappropriate touches, or sexual remarks, you are the victim. There is absolutely nothing that will justify it being your fault because it is never your fault and there’s no negotiating that fact.
- Your appearance is NEVER an excuse to be sexually assaulted. You can never look like you were “asking for it” nor do you deserve to be assaulted because you chose to expose any part of your body, or use makeup, or because you are pretty. There is absolutely no valid reason that you should accept any sexual behavior towards you without your explicit consent.
- Any state of mind which affects your ability to make strong, important decisions renders you completely incapable of giving consent. Minors, some persons who are chronically mentally ill, and anyone under the influence of strong drugs and alcohol, for instance, are an automatic “no”. No matter what they say or do, the fact remains that they are unable to make that decision and, therefore, are not to be placed in any situation which would call for their consent. Carrying out any form of sexual behavior towards these individuals is completely wrong.
Consent is such a widely disputed topic, when really we just need to have the decency and respect to NOT carry out sexual behaviour without the other persons’ clear permission. We must also remember that minors and the chronically mentally ill cannot give consent. Any blurs should be cleared up. Anyone seeking consent should be of an age and with the mental capacity to communicate willingness, or the lack thereof. Women, it’s time that we really understand what consent is and our rights regarding it so that we can take a stand against violation. Your body is yours and no one else’s. You have the full ability and all right to give, remove and deny allowance.
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